Idaho’s 60 percent goal makes sense

Some have questioned if the goal of having 60 percent of Idaho high school graduates going on to some form of advanced degree or certificate is reasonable. To me the goal makes sense.

While I agree that not everyone needs a formal college education, everyone can and should continue to learn. We all need to keep learning to support our careers and our overall success.  And it’s plain that every career is going to require some form of higher learning and training. I see this every day in the construction industry.

We shouldn’t get too hung up on the nature of the goal. It doesn’t mean 60 percent of Idahoans are expected to have a degree from a four-year university. The education task force that developed the recommendation included skill training and vocational certificates in the figure. We’re not necessarily talking about a traditional degree, but essential life skills necessary in today’s rapidly advancing Idaho economy.

At my company, Hansen-Rice, Inc., we employ people who are college educated and many who came up through the trades and worked their way into superintendent and management positions. I know this is true of other members of the Idaho Associated General Contractors and I’m glad to see Don’t Fail Idaho encouraging Idahoans to look beyond high school, to make a better life for themselves.

Idaho needs skilled workers of all kinds, but tomorrow’s workers will need training beyond high school almost no matter what they do.

Education will give them the opportunity to advance. Idaho’s community colleges like CWI and training programs provide tremendous opportunities for those who want to work with their hands and don’t want to be confined to a desk.

Certifications and trainings are diverse across different industries. In the construction business, we need everyone, from welders to mechanics and equipment operators, to be fully trained. Trades people have to be expertly trained in their craft because they use dangerous equipment and are depended on by whole teams of people.

This training allows them to pursue a career that will be fulfilling, financially stable and a benefit to our state. When you enter the field directly from high school with no training, you are starting at the very bottom and the ladder you will climb is much steeper.

Our organization employs about 150 people year round, but depending on the season and projects we’ve had over 600 on the payroll. Finding the right people is already tough and it’s getting harder all the time to find skilled field construction personnel who have the know-how and desire to do the work.

Because we value having skilled employees, we’re willing to invest in education for our people. In this we are not alone. Many Idaho businesses like ours offer programs to help continue school or training even after entering a career. We hope that our efforts will help to meet, and maybe even exceed, that 60 percent goal.

We want our employees to advance.  We look for employees who are willing to learn new skills and are eager to continue their education.  Knowing how to learn is a skill you get from taking your education beyond high school.



Burke Hansen

Burke Hansen is the COO and Principal at Hansen-Rice, Inc. He also is the past president of the Idaho AGC, a partner in the Don’t Fail Idaho campaign. Learn more at or

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